I am a hugger. As my mother would say, I came by it honestly, meaning it was passed down from the generation before. I grew up in an affectionate family. Not intimate, but affectionate. The Jugoslavs kiss everyone on each cheek every time you say hello or leave, whether you know each other or not, as long as you are a slav. The Irish hug all relatives or close friends of relatives. There is also a habit with the Jugoslavs to hold your hand after you have kissed and they slip you a hundred dollar bill as you leave. So common. Not the same with the Irish. Perhaps they didn’t make as much money and don’t have the means, but it is not a culture that has money changing hands easily, unless it’s for alcohol or gambling. Not that they aren’t generous, it’s just in other ways. I grew up with Irish relatives from Montana coming to stay for medical procedures not available in their backwoods homes. They would take my bed and we just doubled up everywhere. It was common. If someone was hurt in the mines, there would always be someone around to help with the kids or washing or food. The food sharing was on both sides. You did not go into a house without immediately sitting down for a full meal that was put in front of you while you caught up on whatever you were visiting for. It did not have to be meal time and usually they would snack a bit, but pressure you to “eat more, eat more”. Then the Jugoslavs bring out the chocolate. I’m not sure what it is with chocolate and slavs. My dad used to send me a care package of smoked meat, fish and home made wine. It always had dried figs, pistachios and chocolate in the bottom of the box. I have carried on some of these hugging traditions. I occasionally shake hands when I first meet someone, unless our mutual friend has given me a backstory on how much you mean to them and if so, you get a hug from me. I hug when I greet a friend or relative, I hug when I leave. Sometimes, with a friend who has just told me something very sad or has said something touching to me, they get a hug in the middle of the conversation. I’m not really a big kisser. I never liked the kissing on both cheeks thing but I love the hugging. I have always hugged my children. They liked it until they became teenagers. My daughter even asked me to drop her off around the corner so her friends wouldn’t see me. Odd since all her friends already knew me and had spent a good deal of time at our house. As she grew, she became a non- hugger. My second child was ambivalent. He could hug or not, no difference to him. My youngest son is a hugger on miracle grow. I sit on a spacious couch and he sits next to me, so close, he’s almost in my lap. Then he puts his arm over my shoulder. He’s much bigger than me and I feel quite tiny in that position, but he likes to be close. He has maintained his hugging ability into adulthood and it looks like it will never leave….like me. But my daughter, so different. She hates hugging and avoids it as often as she can get away with. If either of us is leaving on a big trip and she knows I want to hug her, she might give me the quickest of hugs. Usually I don’t even get that. She has started putting out her shoulder for the slightest nudge and calls it a “nug”. Her husband is just like her. He hates hugs too. Now the grandkids are getting older and they are starting to take on their parent’s dislike of hugging. We have made it into a game. Their little dog likes to hang out with me so when she comes to get her, we trade – the dog for a hug. She grabs the dog and runs up the stairs before I can hug her. The younger granddaughter seems to still like hugs but she also still likes watching “Anne with an E” with me and the older has gone on to horror films. I will take my hugs wherever and whenever I can.
By Paul DeLong
On July 9, 2022
I much enjoyed that you explored both “Hugger-lovers” and the “Hug-averse.” I found that refreshing and embracing of diversity of styles. Thanks a lot for this piece. A gift to the reader!